So much has happened since we last wrote! We were in Staniel Cay, awaiting our repaired autopilot.
We had a lot of fun, putting in the time. We dove with Rick & Evelyn on Annual Hope. And spent an afternoon with a local artist. But, the part arrived and off we went on Mar 13th. The wind is blowing well, so we sailed north to Norman’s Cay, passing vessels who were motor-sailing! The wind was really up the next day, so on we went to Ship Channel Cay. Arrived there at only 9:30 am, and wind is still howling. Perhaps we have time to sit this blow out.
Some snorkeling, beach walking and fishing from the dinghy was enjoyed . In the morning, the wind had lessen slightly. So, up comes the anchor and we head into the Middle Ground towards Fleeming Channel and Spanish Wells. This passage had been recommended to us, but what a trip!. Approx five miles into the day, we met the first coral heads. Now these are small or large mounds of coral that are below the surface, but we don’t know how far below! So, the approved method is to go around all coral heads. Murray spent at least 1.5 hrs on the bow, pointing the way to steer. At times, he said that there didn’t appear to be a clear way ahead. Finally, we left those heads behind and had deep water ( 4 feet under the keel ) all the way.
As the winds were good and the forecast appeared to give us a window for heading to Abaco, we continued straight into Spanish Wells. While there, we re-connected with some old friends – Woody Perry, a local pilot and Tom & Jean, former cruisers now re-storing a house in Spanish Wells. Woody and his family joined us for dinner aboard the next night and he led us out through the reef early morning on Mar 17th.
Our faithful wind deserted us today and we had to motorsail north to the Little Harbour entrance into the Abacos. Luckily, we dodged the thunderstorm that others met. We spent a couple of days exploring the shallow waters nearby, and fishing from the dinghy. When we finally headed for Marsh Harbour, we met friends just leaving. It didn’t take much convincing to get us to sail off to Bakers Bay with them. My favourite shelling spot is near there and I got to spend a couple of hours searching the shore with promises of more time to follow.
But, company is coming and the boat needs cleaning, stocking and the laundry done. Back to Marsh Harbour. MaryAnn Leverton joined us there for a week of quiet time in the islands. We managed to drag her all over Man-of-War, Hope Town, Bakers Bay and Marsh Harbour during her time aboard. But, then she was gone and the ‘honeymoon’ started again. That is how cruisers refer to the time after company leave.
The radio had been buzzing with news of a party. The Mad Hatters Ball on April 1st at Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour. Come in a hat or come naked – that was the rule. The wind was howling, but we can’t miss a good party. The costumes were outrageous, the food was good and plentiful and the music was terrific. When the tops came off, Murray was in heaven. But, eventually you have to go home and ours was about a mile and a half to windward in 25 knots of wind! Talk about wet t-shirt contests! It was a scary ride, but we made sure to travel with other dinghies.
Time to move on. Anchor up and heading to Baker’s Bay and more shelling. But, the weather doesn’t look good for the next few days. And right now we can safely pass through the cut and around to Green Turtle. So, I agreed and on we sailed.
Lots of wind forecasted in the front heading for us tomorrow, so at high tide we entered White Sound for shelter. It is a great ‘hurricane hole’ but many vessels were damaged here last year in Floyd. The winds recorded locally peaked near 150 knots! No wonder boats dragged mooring and ended up on shore. Friends on Jazzbrek – Larry & Phyllis from Kingston – had damage to their vessel. But, she was back in the water again and looking good. It was wonderful to re-connect with them. Also, Shutin Star from Sarnia was moored nearby. More reunions, and parties.
My computer had been giving me problems. Someone recommended re-installing Windows 95. So, one morning, when it was stuttering once again, I did that. The up-shot of everything was – I lost my screen! Now, I can’t see to fix anything. But, ham friends from Pt Stanley & St Thomas ( Dave -VA3 TD & Mike- VA3 MD ) spent two hours on the radio with us and got me running again. The screen is reduced in size and has only 16 bit colour, but it is a screen.
Our time in the islands is coming to an end now, and we sail north to Allens-Pensacola. Murray caught 2 more big fish – cero mackerels. The Abacos has been good fishing for him with a 10 lb mutton snapper caught recently and our freezer full of conch. No shortage of meals aboard.
The weather report seems favourable and at 10:00 am, we hauled the anchor up. From our current location to Ft Pierce FL, it is 140 miles. We sailed straight through and made it in 22 hrs. The seas were very large, but on the stern. As the auto-pilot couldn’t handle wind and seas too well, we hand steered for the last 50 miles. Coming into the inlet, the wind and current were opposing and it felt as though we were inside a washing machine!
After clearing customs and arranging our dockage and haul-out, then the work began. Emptying the boat of gear, food and clothing for the seasons up north. Retrieve the car, polish the hull, wash , fold and store sails .. Wash teak with vinegar to slow down mildew. Ziplock all books. The list goes on.
So, we will haul out and leave Windswept IV behind in Ft Pierce. She has looked after us well this year, handling the storms and narrow cuts with current, and anything else we throw at her. The watermaker has performed flawlessly, making 250 gals of fresh water for us. The computer has had its problems but that will be addressed. The new GPS was wonderful. And the ham radio was invaluable! For weather, communications and just for fun.
All in all, it was a wonderful winter. I hope the spring and summer are just as great. We will arrive in Ontario near the end of April and start work in Killarney mid May. Hopefully, we will connect sometime this summer.
All the best to everyone and stay in touch. The pocketmail address will be used in Ontario, so please write. The excitement continues with Jeremy & Cynthia’s wedding on July 22nd. What a summer we will have!
I am not sure that I will continue the monthly updates while working up north. So, you may not receive any further newsletters until the fall. Enjoy the summer everyone, and, especially, have fun.
Love to all, Murray & Heather
Heather & Murray Rand
aboard Windswept IV